When I think about the looming crises of peak oil, peak water, peak food, peak people , I am reminded of the following Indian parable that I came across, told by the comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell, in his book Myths To Live By:
There was once a young monk whose guru had enlightened him to the realization of himself as identical to the power which guides the universe, which many theologies reference as “God.” The young monk, profoundly exalted with this oneness with the universal spirit, left the monastery on a journey into town and, on the road there saw a great elephant coming towards him with a howdah on its back, and carrying a rider high on its neck. Filled as he was with the proposition of “I am God; all things are God,” and on perceiving the elephant coming towards him, made the obvious inference, “The elephant is also God.”
The animal steadily came on, with its rider shouting, “Clear the way! Get out of the way, you idiot!” The youth, thinking still, “I am God; that elephant is God,” heard the shouts of the driver and thought, “Should God be afraid of God? Should God get out of the way of God?”
The elephant continued to bear down on him, and the monk, in undistracted meditation, held both his place and his transcendental insight until, at the point of trampling him, the elephant simply wrapped his trunk around the monk and tossed him aside, off the road.
Physically shocked, spiritually stunned, the young monk landed in a heap, bruised but not greatly harmed; and rising, returned, disordered, to his guru, to demand an explanation.
“You told me,” he said, when he had explained himself, “you told me that I was God.”
“Yes,” said the guru, “you are God.”
“You told me that all things are God.”
Yes,” said the guru again, “all things are God.”
“That elephant, then, was God?”
“So it was. That elephant was God. But why didn’t you listen to the voice of God, shouting from the elephant’s head, to get out of the way?”
And so it is with climate denial. For it seems to me, for those who are believers, that their God is trying to communicate to them by every conceivable means short of booming “STOP DESTROYING MY PLANET” from the sky, and yet they fail to listen because God will protect them. And God still might. But when they find themselves in a crumpled mass on the side of the road, they can’t say they weren’t forewarned.